Gweru workers, residents gang up against council

BY BRENNA MATENDERE/STEPHEN CHADENGA

THE embattled Gweru City Council has been issued with a 14-day strike notice by its workers who are demanding a cost of living adjustment and a salary hike, while disgruntled residents have also given the local authority up to tomorrow to respond to maladministration issues unearthed recently by a probe team.

In a notice seen by Southern Eye, signed by the Zimbabwe Urban Council Workers’ Union’s (ZUCWU) Gweru branch secretary, Ambrose Hwande, council employees say they will start picketing at Town House on August 13 and then go for a full strike from August 22.

The letter was delivered to the Gweru Labour Court and copied to town clerk Elizabeth Gwatipedza, mayor Josiah Makombe, chamber secretary Vakai Douglas
Chikwekwe and the Zimbabwe Republic Police.

“Notice is hereby given that from August 13, 2019, City of Gweru employees will engage in a demonstration and picketing. From August 22, it will be total
withdrawal of labour against the employer’s insensitivity to employees’ cost of living adjustment and allowances request,” the notice read.

ZUCWU secretary-general and Midlands chairperson of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Kudakwashe Munengiwa said the workers’ demands were justified.

“Basically, what the workers are demanding is a cost of living adjustment of $500 across the board which should be immediately paid and then adjustment of the salaries to match the prevailing US dollar rate on the interbank market. The employer is paying new prices that have been adjusted on every service rendered
like fuel and hotel bills when officials travel. The only thing they have not adjusted are salaries of their own employees,” he said.

Munengiwa said ZUCWU arrived at the $500 cushioning allowance figure after taking into consideration that the food basket for a standard family is currently
pegged at $850 and the least paid council worker earns about $400.

Makombe told Southern Eye that the workers’ demands were genuine, but they should first wait for the supplementary budget.

“What we are saying is that we know things are now expensive and people are suffering. But our hiccup is that we are still using expenditure figures drawn from
the initial 2019 budget that has since been eroded by inflation. We cannot draw water from a stone. So our response is that workers should be patient and wait
until our supplementary budget is approved. That is where we can get more money. We also have service delivery to cater for,” he said.

Meanwhile, Gweru Residents and Ratepayers’ Association director Cornilia Selipiwe said the “deafening silence” by the local authorities over issues raised in
the probe team’s report tabled last month, particularly failure to account for funds and anomalies in procuring equipment by the engineering department, among
others was disturbing.

“The report noted that in 2017 the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) advanced $1 million to council for the purchase of a pump and yet the local
authority failed to account for the money,” Selipiwe said. “What is, however, worrying is lack of communication from the accounting officer who happens to be
the town clerk.”

Selipiwe added: “We wonder why management is taking long to explain these issues and as residents we are giving them up to Friday to respond to allegations
raised in the report, failure which we will descend on council in our multitudes and demand answers.”

According to the report, there is allegedly no record on what the money received from Zinwa was used for or in which account it is being held.

Gweru United Progressive Residents and Ratepayers Association Trust executive director David Chikore weighed in, saying council officials’ silence was causing
speculation among residents.

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